Washington, DC – Sunday, Feb. 23, 5:00 p.m. EST
Anna was purchasing a latte for a late afternoon pick-me-up on her way to visit Viktor, when Zarribe called back.
“Mr. Zarribe?” Anna answered as she handed a five to the cashier.
“I don’t have much, Anna, but it’s not for lack of trying,” Zarribe said.
“Oh,” Anna replied, disappointed. She made a fist with her left hand and held it close to her chest. With her right, she pushed her bag’s shoulder strap back and then grabbed her latte, giving a quick smile and nod to the barista. “Thanks, anyway,” she told Zarribe.
“But I do have a little,” he added.
“Oh!” she repeated, this time enthusiastically. She stood near the door of the shop to listen.
“Charles de Jeanbourg is smart as a whip and doesn’t suffer fools,” Zarribe began. “He’s a linguist who conducts research. That is, I confirmed he’s officially a CIA analyst, don’t know his expertise. Didn’t hear anything CIA about the other three: Smith, Brown or Salazar. None of my agency contacts had anything on them.”
“Yup. But think of it this way: A dearth of information can also be useful.”
“It means one of two things. They are either under serious cover, or they really don’t have anything to do with the CIA.”
“And what is your best guess?”
“Called around, as you asked. Talked to some security-military folks, and some people who are not in the intelligence community. Asked about these clowns. From what I heard, if I had to guess? I don’t buy it that Brown is somehow a mole for the CIA. In the Senate? Come on! Paranoia is ubiquitous these days, but that doesn’t pass the smell test. Spying on the Senator would be a waste of time and money. Besides, he couldn’t do both jobs at once.”
“OK,” she said.
“Regarding Smith—the CIA might place a computer nerd over at the Bank, somebody to monitor communications—or one might imagine there are foreign intelligence operatives working undercover as Bank types. Maybe such persons are supposed to keep eyes on the Bank. Just thinking out loud here. But, Smith, nah, I don’t see it. My contacts over at the Bank say that guy goes home and plays computer games. He could be a hacker, but he doesn’t have the people skills to be in traditional intelligence. And he doesn’t blend in.”
“What about Salazar?”
“Now Salazar is another story. Real mystery man. Slick. Well-travelled. Multilingual. He was in Bangkok when he met Evy, from what you told me, right? Follow that lead.”
“Thanks, Mr. Zarribe. This has been helpful. I appreciate all your time.”
“There’s one more thing,” he said. “I’d find out where these CIA stories are coming from.”
“OK. Got it. Thanks again.”
“Let me know if you need anything else,” Zarribe said.
Anna called Viktor again. No one answered. She sent him a text saying she would stop by as soon as she could, and ordered a car. Viktor would understand. No sooner had she stepped outside when her phone rang again. The caller ID read “unknown name,” which hardly ever happened anymore. She had to laugh at the irony—since the telemarketers and scammers hijacked other people’s real names and numbers, the tell-tale “unknown name” was someone important.
She picked up the phone but said nothing, still half-expecting a computerized voice threatening her about her IRS delinquency.
“Anna Jones?” a man said into the void.
“Yes,” she said.
“We don’t know each other, but my name may ring a bell. I’m Charles de Jeanbourg.”
Copyright © by Wolf Bahren. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher with “permission requests” in the subject line at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.